Friday, July 19, 2019

Quick Takes: Midsommar, Starfish, Annabelle Comes Home


Midsommar is a folk horror daydream promising serenity for a pound of pulpy, red flesh. It is hypnotic, blooms with dread & drops unsettling, grisly visuals that while expected still land hard. Ambitious, unique & masterful auteur work, but it sadly does perpetuate xenophobia.






Starfish brings an arthouse apocalypse filled with stunning, hypnotic visuals, Lovecraftian monsters & a moody alt rock score. It all hangs on a captivating lead performance but is ensnarled in too much enigma, dampening the impact of this unique & somber grief piece.





Annabelle Comes Home is a surprisingly clever third installment due to the setting, strong cast, and menagerie of nasties. I enjoyed the glimpses into the Warren’s other cases & rather than being a retread, it simply dives in. A treat for fans but newbies may get lost in the fog.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Christine McConnell is Back!

I've been a big huge fan of Christine McConnell and have followed her from Instagram to her book, Deceptive Desserts, to her Netflix show, The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. Sadly the show got the axe but you can't keep a good woman down for long.

She has just launched a new YouTube series called "From the mind of Christine McConnell" which will feature a new project every month. Each video will follow the project from beginning to end. July's video has her transforming a pullout couch she bought on Craigslist into an Edwardian masterpiece. This is absolutely a jaw-dropping transformation.

If you are like me, and can't get enough, consider becoming a Christine McConnell Patreon subscriber and get a coffin full of extras including exclusive project videos, Q&A livestreams, recipes, tools & instructions, and more, depending on your tier.

I'm so delighted to see Christine McConnell back on screens. She is such a talented and inspiring artist. It must also be noted how exquisite the production design, camera work and lighting is in her premiere video, and the music is so hauntingly beautiful. Brava!



Monday, July 8, 2019

The Horror of Food: Figs & Wasps

Fresh figs are just about in season and it's time to delve into the pulpy, sweet fruit high in vitamin A, C, potassium and fiber. Here's some great recipes from TheSpruceEats.com.

Unfortunately, this delightfully exotic fruit was forever ruined by a post on Apple News. I cannot unlearn the following info, so if you are a fan of figs, you might want to skip this post.

First, there are male figs that are inedible and female figs that we eat. Second, a fig wasp that's no bigger than a gnat enters the base of the male fig to lay her eggs and DIES. Males hatch, breed with the females, chew tunnels out of the fig and DIE. But female wasps use those tunnels to emerge and start the process all over again. If the fig she enters is a female fig, the wasp DIES, and is absorbed by the fig eventually resulting in a juicy, plump fig. Coincidentally, for this reason, many vegans and vegetarians refuse to eat figs.

The following video from BrainStuff gives you the full explanation:


YouTube Link

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Quick Takes: Knife+Heart, Nightmare Cinema, Man Who Killed Hitler...


Knife+Heart is expressionist film at its dandiest, indulging in titillating & giallo color-saturated imagery. Vanessa Paradis is stunning as an obsessed porn producer in the 70s being stalked why a leather-faced baddie. Its roots are firmly embedded in the horror of gay trauma.







Nightmare Cinema gives the horror anthology a fresh take with segments that take on slashers, body horror, possession & in the most impressive turn, mental health anguish. The cast and the production are superb & shows #Shudder is really stepping up their game as producers.





The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then Bigfoot is a surprising & often touching drama, thanks to Sam Elliot, with a kooky & original premise. It stumbles with tonal/genre shifts but exciting as a hybrid experiment. Ultimately it’s too syrupy for genre fans & too weird for drama fans.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Los Espookys is Offbeat, Genius & Hilarious

Los Espookys is the show that I didn’t know I needed and absolutely love. I’ve laughed to the point of having a white outs, and find it fascinating that these wacky characters are all too similar to weird people I know in real life. The situations they put themselves are surreal and I imagine humorless home haunters rolling their eyes at the implausibility of the effects they create, but that’s not the point.

A reluctant entrepreneur Reynaldo (Bernado Velasco), teams with his friends, the droll tech whiz Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherrotti) and the orphan chocolate prince Andrés (Julio Torres) to use their horror proclivity for pay. Whether boosting the demon-fighting allure of a parish priest being replaced by a younger, handsome, and glossy-lipped priest, or an heiress who wants to ensure her family’s fortune doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, Los Espookys are called to set up scenes of terror to fool the superstitiously-inclined dummies while managing their escalating personal problems.

I’d like to call out Ana Fabrega who plays the quirky, soap-licking Tati who goes from an illustrious job of fan-spinning to possessed girl. She’s also one of the two writers of this show (along with Julio Torres). Those familiar with the irreverent At Home with Amy Sedaris will recognize her as Esther who lives with the lady in the woods. Fabrega has impeccable comic timing as well as a gift of highly expressive face acting. Face acting, of course, is the rare skill to communicate boatloads of character with zero spoken dialogue and one look. Just ask Norma Desmond.

Los Espookys is created in the kindred spirit of shows like 30 Rock (this show is also executive produced by Lorne Michaels) and Arrested Development where quick line deliveries, absurd situations, and extremely clever wit swirl into comedy gold. It’s mostly in Spanish, and yes, there are subtitles but don’t be afraid. I will admit that as a bilingual, the show seems somewhat funnier in Spanish. I'm not sure if its the colloquialism or sensibility of Latin America, but the jokes land harder in my native Mexican tongue. Of course most of the humor is universal, like Andrés' vapid Instagram boy toy Juan Carlos, a hypnotized news anchor who seeks the truth because the public demands it, or the telenovela-like mysterious dame dressed in red and running around a mansion looking perplexed. Guest stars like Fred Armisen as Tico, and Carol Kane add to the crossover appeal.

With only six 30-minute episodes, this will be a very quick binge when it hopefully makes its way out of HBO and onto other streaming platforms, which I hope it does for the sake of a second season. Los Espookys is a tough sell of horror, comedy and Spanish that may limit its broader appeal stateside but I admire HBO’s commitment to diversity. Putting Mexicans at the forefront of the show, setting the show in Mexico, and having the actors actually speak Spanish (because that's what it should be) is exactly the kind of representation needed on American TV.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Happy Pride! I'm Gay for Horror

It's the last day of Pride 2019 and I wanted to share an article I wrote for GaylyDreadful.com. The editor put out a call for contributors on Twitter and I was selected for publication, my first outside of this blog! It's one thing to call yourself a writer and another to convince someone else you're a writer and have them publish you. Thank you Terry for giving me the opportunity to share my writing and my experience with your readers.




I'm Gay for Horror
by Señor Scary


Growing up in 80’s southwest Tejas, there were three things to do in my border town: sweep up dust, eat, and watch movies. You could also go to church and the good Catholics were eager to sit on your shoulders and shine a flashlight on your sins. I once asked a priest about sins. The greatest was not murder or adultery but being gay! Early on, I suspected that I might be different because I lingered in the JCPenney men’s interior fashions, my brother told me I held my books like a girl because they were clutched to my chest, and a gorgeous junior high bully, Brad Dunkadonk insisted on calling me faaaag… gettt… as he ran past me in gym class. I got to admire his assets so I guess we both won. I would get home from school and turn on the VCR.

Movies were my constant companion and my window to a Technicolor world. I didn’t know then, but horror movies in particular would help shape my identity in the decade to follow. We were a family who loved movies. In fact, we bonded mainly over movies. My earliest recollection is my father taking us to the palatial old theater, El Regalo, in Juárez, Mexico for a Sunday afternoon double feature. One was usually a thriller, but we rarely stayed for the second feature opting to get a torta de milanesa and agua de melon across the street. This is where I saw my first horror movie, Blood Beach, in which people were sucked into the sand by a monster. We also saw The Changeling since my father loved George C. Scott, and I vowed right there to never live in a house with stairs or red balls.

At home, my older brothers introduced me to Fangoria magazine, and my eyes bulged at the gruesome spectacle of an axe to the head in Friday the 13th. I was so in awe of special effects that I learned how to make blood out of everyday pantry ingredients so that I could permanently stain my mother’s bathroom tile with a grisly scene. Yet, my weary Mamá always encouraged my dark endeavors. She even allowed me to watch the TV-network edit of The Exorcist because she knew horror movies made me happy. I made good grades, never got in trouble, and stayed away from Maria Juana, so Mamá was also happy. This is when I understood that I could be myself and still be loved.

In high school, I finally understood what being gay meant, although I wouldn’t tell my intermittent girlfriend – or another soul – for 5 years. I felt like a misfit. I was soft-spoken, quiet, and yearned for acceptance. Then, suddenly, I made a new friend––and he loved horror movies! This guy had an odd, eggshaped head with puffs of curly hair, and he was markedly heterosexual. We watched so many movies together including Pumpkinhead, argued the merits of Stan Winston, and furiously yelled across the mall parking lot about man-in-a-monster-suit movies.

I was a master of horror movies and would debate them to death. Through this alliance, I finally managed to find a voice. It was a timid, sheepish, and reluctant voice, but I finally felt like I could express myself with a shred of confidence. Sadly, at graduation this friend told me he would kill me if I ever turned out to be gay. It was a real threat and he owned a lot of guns, so I believed him and we never spoke again.

My love of horror movies, introduced to me by parents, ushered by my brothers, and explored with my friends, helped me find my feisty voice. Horror movies instilled a survival instinct in me to overcome the adversity of judgmental strangers who condemn my passion. It’s also very encouraging to discover that a large community of outsiders and misfits devoted to the horror genre are also queer and queer allies. And if horror movies have taught us anything it is that the final girl who keeps her wits and her coif during extreme bloodshed, walks into the warm morning sunlight without a hint of shame.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

DemonHuntr Is Looking for a Few Good Souls



DemonHuntr is dying to bring diversity to the horror genre but it needs your help! Created by Tim O’Leary (Wolf Island, SGM seeks LTR in NYC), this web series will be casting a horror comedy spell with a Sabrina/Evil Dead/Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe – but now featuring LBGTQIA and people of color as lead characters! We are in a new era and representation matters. “Everyone is getting a seat the table,” says O’Leary. The crowdfunding campaign is underway raising over $12K towards their goal of $36,666. To contribute, please visit DemonHuntr.com today!

Mr. O’Leary was kind enough to answer some of my probing questions about his views on queer horror, sex, and, yes, even, theatre.



Señor Scary: I often hear that there are gay characters in almost every series now, so is targeted media like this really needed?

Tim O'Leary: There’s a world of difference between having a gay character in a show and having the leads almost exclusively be in the LGBT community, and that difference is whose story it is. When your lead is a gay man, as ours is, that means the world of the show is seen through a gay lens. We see his community, we see his relationships, we see his life in a way you wouldn’t if he were a side character. Right now, there are exactly zero shows in our genre with an LGBT lead, so I’d say Demonhuntr is absolutely needed.


Señor Scary: A year ago, Queer Horror was not something I’d heard much about. When I saw the first Horror Queers articles on Bloody-Disgusting.com I was delighted but also surprised. Why do you think Queer Horror is taking off now and how do you feel a series like this will shape its future?

Tim O'Leary: Great question! As it happens, there’s been a queerness in horror and horror fandom stretching back a very long time. The movie Gods and Monsters showcased how much gay sensitivity and humor went into Bride of Frankenstein.

The big difference now is the Internet. We’re able to find each other with an ease that is unprecedented. In the past, if you were an isolated LGBT person into horror, you’d have to ask around, talk to friends of friends, maybe try to start a group, just to see if anyone else was like you. Now you just do an Instagram search for #queerhorror.

I think the emergence of this fandom is fantastic, and my hope is we get to see a lot more inclusivity in the genre. And since the conventional wisdom in Hollywood is “write the show you’ve always wanted to see,” that’s what I’m doing!



Señor Scary: Your Instagram account led me to my favorite new artist Karl von Frankstein which included a scantily clad Jason, Michael and Freddy Krueger. Yet LGBTQIA media is often criticized for its overtly sexualized imagery. Is it that sex sells or does the queer community approach sex differently?

Tim O'Leary: I think, and this is solely my own anecdotal experience not based on anything official, that the queer community just has a little more fun with sex than our straight counterparts, and we don’t take it so seriously. And that particularly goes with sex in media and advertising. Straight men are conditioned to believe that all media is for them, and this is reinforced through most imagery we see on TV and film, particularly the exploitation of female bodies for the male gaze.

When I see things like a sexy pin-up version of Jason or Michael Myers, I’m much more likely to laugh than get turned on, because obviously there’s a joke there, but also I know that it’s most likely going to make straight men very uncomfortable... which I also enjoy. I could write a whole thesis paper about this.

Our show is frank in its sexuality – characters have sex, and we don’t shy away from that. But it’s also not exploitative or soft-porn-y either. As a writer, I’m much more interested in making people laugh than turning anyone on.

But if they do get turned on, that’s okay, too.



Señor Scary: I loved the pitch video and also read that you and several in your cast have a theater backgrounds. Will that world of spectacle, over-the-top, sing-out-Louise audacity inform the series? And more importantly, have you planned out a musical episode?

Tim O'Leary: We actually have a song-and-dance number! Well, hopefully. I wrote a very musical theater moment that actually fits easily into the plot. But song-and-dance numbers are expensive, so that’s one of our “stretch goals,” meaning if we make over the hoped-for budget, we can include that number. Which I really hope we can do.

There is a sense of grandness to the story, which probably is a bit informed by my love of musical theater, and also Shakespeare, fantasy novels, and video games. A lot of various media has informed Demonhuntr, for sure.



Señor Scary: For those who join the crowdfunding efforts, and every horror fan could for as little as $5, what is the timeline for production and debut of the web series. How many episodes are you hoping to get for the first season?

Tim O'Leary: Once we have our budget established, we’re going into pre-production and will most likely shoot in the fall. One thing you learn very quickly in Hollywood is that post-production always take twice as long and costs twice as much as you think it will going in, so I’d say we’d probably be looking at the summer of 2020 as the earliest release.

We’re hoping for seven episodes, but it all depends on the amount we make. The original slate of episodes we wrote numbered nine, and that doesn’t include outlines for even more episodes. I’m a long-form storyteller by nature so I can see this going for years. There are so many stories we want to tell, and we’re hoping we get to tell all of them!





Check out DemonHuntr on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and their YouTube channel featuring Monster Mondays, Trivia Tuesdays and Feature Friday clips!




Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Doctor Sleep Trailer is Finally Here

Director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Oculus, Gerald's Game, Hush) revealed the first trailer for DOCTOR SLEEP, the follow up to THE SHINING today on Twitter.

If you haven't read the fantastic book, you might not know that it's not a direct sequel. Stephen King's book follows little Danny Torrance into adulthood (now played by Ewan McGregor) as he tries to fend off a tribe that preys on children with the shining. The tone is radically different, and fans looking for a return visit the bloody madness of the Overlook Hotel will be greatly disappointed. There are no ghosts here, only very bad people who hurt children.

I have full faith in Flanagan to capture the spirit of the book as he excels in intimate stories of personal adversity, family dysfunction, and quests for redemption. It opens November 8.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Crazy about "American Psycho: The Musical"

The trend of turning horror movies into farcical pop musicals continues with the mostly successful American Psycho: The Musical. You get to experience the film on stage, mostly, with the addition of a thumping 80s electronic score. The original songs by Duncan Sheik work well, but these are interspersed with tedious snippets of classic 80s songs, which take you right out of the moment. Presumably this was done to give the cast a chance to execute numerous costumes changes or wipe the blood from their bodies and stage.


The musical is fun, zippy, and brash, but the success rests squarely on the broad shoulders of the actor in the lead role of Patrick Bateman. In the  Ray of Light Theatre’s West Coast premiere production, the charismatic, tall and handsome Kipp Glass perfectly fills Patrick’s tighty-whities. He’s oozing cocky confidence and antsy lunacy by way of crazy bulging eyes, irritable intensity, and impeccable line delivery. His singing is on point and he truly embodies the character.

Having lived through the 80s, the references, visuals, and the costumes all made sense and the book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is quite amusing while retaining the serious storyline. The simple set is aided by projections which allow for vibrant, shifting visuals. The design smartly turns the room, showcasing a corner center stage, allowing for two opening panels that allow for entrances and scene changes. Then there’s some awkward choreography which involves the rather large cast, although most eyes are on Glass and his purposely cumbersome white boy dancing. It all seems chaotic and incoherent, which was probably a choice.

The second act drags a bit and the big reveal at the end was more of question mark than a statement. If they wanted us to feel as dumbfounded as Patrick Bateman, they certainly succeeded. Nonetheless, American Psycho was bloody fun, well-conceived, and didn’t teeter too far into gloominess or camp. I’m extremely excited to see what Ray of Light Theatre does next.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Quick Takes: Brightburn, The Perfection, Piercing


Brightburn is an anomaly: part origin film (that's rather weak), part slasher (that really works). It follows a familiar super man narrative with horror at the fringe that moves in and out of focus and with surprisingly effective gore. Yet the evil simmers without insight and never quite reaches that explosive or emotional crescendo. If it had a stronger point of view, it might have been a better movie – a good concept alone isn't enough.




The Perfection takes beats from revenge films and turns them on their side – unpredictably. With odes to Black Swan, Suspiria, and Oldboy, the tone wavers from segment to segment which are delineated with titles reminiscent to Lars Von Trier movies (but with less misogyny). It has solid acting from Allison Williams and Logan Browning but as usual Steven Weber is miscast as the sinister antagonist. The direction builds masterful moments of suspense giving you whiplash, especially in the first segment on a bus that ends with a definitive chop. You may never know exactly what kind of film you are watching but the madcap twists keep the pace brisk. And yet as it nears the final act, it suddenly stumbles – badly. What should have been a cathartic revelation feels flat and uncharacteristic of this wild ride. But by this time the major punches have already landed and it's bruises are effective and lasting.






Piercing is an accessibly weird, amusing, darkly macabre little film so wispy it practically cracks like nutty brittle. The performances are rapturous, Cronenbergian hallucinations pepper the antics, & the heavily styled sets & direction signifies an auteur at work.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Quick Takes: Hagazussa, Book of Monsters, Scream of Fear




Hagazussa is a rumination on the outsider & women who forge untraditional paths. The visuals tell a grim and forlorn story that’s often triggering, sickening, and hard to swallow. The subtitle calls this a gothic folk tale and its period setting and overall production design will draw comparisons to 2015's The Witch. The horror in this film comes from the almost wordless script, and traumatic moments of an emotional and physically damaged person. Whether the main character is a witch is not the point and the film may not satisfy those wanting a supernatural yarn. Nonetheless, Hagazussa is a masterful debut featuring a harrowing lead performance. It's also artfully shot with exquisite backdrop of the Alps. Ultimately though it may prove too enigmatic for many viewers.



Book of Monsters has a zany 80s vibe, splashy gore, fun practical effects & a squad of tough ladies. It’s B-movie heaven but the sullen leads don't seem to be having fun. A little more camp & urgency when being mauled by freaky monsters would have made this totally rad. If you're in the right frame of mind and properly inebriated this will be a fun time but if you're looking for high art, good direction and editing, perhaps look elsewhere. It's sad when you can see the passion on the screen but it just doesn't gel. As a side note I must call out the the marketing and 80s design for this movie artwork. It is absolutely perfect. I want that poster hanging on my wall, forever!





Hammer Films is known for their gothic horror movies of the 60s & 70s but they have a large catalog of other films that have been widely overlooked. 1961's Scream of Fear is a mystery thriller at heart, although the film's aesthetics and production design definitely leans towards the horror genre. A young wheelchair bound girl visits her estranged father who is away on business as it met by her stepmother. Strange goings on in the house push the girl teetering on the edge of sanity to a breaking point. From there the story twists and turns, sometimes predictably, but you'll never see the end coming. This is how great writing, acting, and direction merge to make a classic film full of dreadful atmosphere and a suspicion that something isn't right. The actors reel you right in with empathetic performances, and the reveals are real gut punches.  Fans of Hitchcock and Christopher Lee should seek it out, although, I will say this is the most straight-forward "normal" role I've seen Christopher Lee playing.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Halfway To Halloween

The taxes are done, Midsummer Scream will soon be upon us, and two more months before Halloween starts showing up in retail stores. Happy Halfway to Halloween!


Sunday, April 28, 2019

My Favorite Horror Films of the Last 10 Years

A recent tweet sent out by Travis Stevens, Founder and CEO of Snowfort Pictures who specializes in genre films including The Endless, XX, We Are Still Here, Cheap Thrills, and Starry Eyes asked followers to list their top 5 films made in the last 10 years. It was a challenge to encapsulate the last 10 years of horror brilliance into only 5 films, so I thought I would share my whole list here (subject to change as I'm reminded of glaring omissions).

I interpreted this as release dates between 2009–2018. Some films are made and shelved or not distributed until a year or two later so I don't rely solely on IMDB dates. Also my guiding philosophy is as follows: movies I'd want to see again, own, have significant artistic merit or cultural impact, and lasting power – and not necessarily the best reviewed movies. Here we go.




TOP 5 HORROR FILMS
  1. Hereditary (2018)
  2. The Witch (2015)
  3. The Babadook (2014)
  4. Trick 'r Treat (made in 2007 but released in 2009)
  5. mother! (2017)

THE OTHER 38 HORROR FILMS
  1. Cabin In The Woods (2011)
  2. Get Out (2017)
  3. Suspiria (2018)
  4. A Quiet Place (2018)
  5. The Conjuring (2013)
  6. It Follows (2014)
  7. Evil Dead (2013)
  8. IT (2018)
  9. Train to Busan (2016)
  10. AntiChrist (2009)
  11. Pontypool (2009)
  12. Housebound (2014)
  13. Gerald's Game (2017)
  14. Krampus (2015)
  15. Under the Skin (2013)
  16. Black Swan (2010)
  17. The Void (2016)
  18. You Might Be The Killer (2018)
  19. You're Next (2011)
  20. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
  21. Insidious (2010)
  22. Let Me In (2010)
  23. Sinister (2012)
  24. The Woman in Black (2012)
  25. Oculus (2013)
  26. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
  27. Crimson Peak (2015)
  28. The Neon Demon (2016)
  29. The Endless (2017)
  30. Anna & the Apocalypse (2018)
  31. Happy Death Day (2017)
  32. Us (2019)
  33. Border (2019)
  34. House of the Devil (2009)
  35. Mandy (2018)
  36. Terrified (2018)
  37. Horror Noire (2019)
  38. A Ghost Story (2017)
So what am I missing?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Curse of La Llorona Sidelines Folklore & Mexicans

The Curse of La Llorona takes cherished Mexican folklore and disappointingly centers it around a distressed white woman. This is an atmospheric, often creepy, and well-produced film, but its lethargic pace, awful script, and aimless direction often leaves both the audience and even the characters saying, “Now what?” It builds a good amount suspense but then delivers only jump scares and cracked mirrors. For such a frightening figure, this movie is lacking some serious cohones.

The script only passingly mentions the back story of La Llorona and never really attempts any meaningful connection to the culture or the time period. Why exactly is La Llorona in Los Angeles? Seems a wee bit off from Mexico, so I'm guessing she's vacationing? One wonders why this movie could not be set in Mexico, and maybe left as a period piece. The answer is simple: this movie is made for mainstream American audiences who will not tolerate subtitles, full Mexican casts, and intended to capitalize on the figure of La Llorona. If there were respects made to the culture, I failed to see any of them.

Worse yet, it shows mostly eccentric Latino supporting characters that run eggs around door frames or clean bad juju with smudge sticks, are crazed mothers inexplicably locking children in weirdly illustrated closets, or are radical priests with weird ghostbusting agendas. No all Mexicans are not like this. If my mamá had a smudge stick she’d use it to make enchilada sauce, she would never waste an egg, and God forbid I so much as put a faint pencil line on her immaculate white doors. This lack of balance showing human, fully-dimensional characters is really disheartening.

I really admire Linda Cardellini as an actress and she does a superb job with what she's given. Her guttural scream is chilling and she can emote the fear and protective yelps of a mother trying to protect her children. Unfortunately, the children at the center of this have wooden line delivery, and the script makes them speak and act in ways a child would never do. Upon seeing my nephew last week, he immediately launched into every horrid detail of caterpillar that fell on his face. Yet the children in this film encounter a spectral figure, are chased repeatedly, and have not one word to say on the matter. They also run towards danger and into dark places. I get that this is horror film and one must suspend their disbelief, but at one point, the young girl makes such an egregious error that I begged for La Llorona to take her, no questions asked.

Finally, the movie commits a horror movie cardinal sin. Rules are never really established for how La Llorona can haunt, and then contradicts itself at every point. She can appear anywhere, sometimes, but can only lunge at you for about 4 feet and never reach you. She must first mark you, just because she can, but will also attack you if you are not marked. It appears she only haunts Mexican children, but has made an exception for half-Mexican children. She is a spectral figure, but you can grab loose accessories from outfit. And her cries, result in tears we never see fall, that if treated could be used against her. None of this makes any pinche sense.

I've been waiting for a good film about La Llorona. One day it will be made and not concocted in the experimental churnhouse of The Conjuring producers. It makes me so sad that this film didn't live up to half the promise of the trailer, and while I appreciated seeing Mexican actors on screen, I did not like the unbalanced portrayal of the culture. At the very least, we got some stunning artwork for the posters which is about the best thing to come from this terribly misguided, hugely disappointing, and sadly mediocre film. 






Sunday, April 14, 2019

Quick Takes: The Wind, Border, Searching, Now Apocalypse


The Wind offers stunning vistas, a chilling soundtrack & harrowing lead performance. As a frontier-period set indie, it's ambitious in scope, unsettling, and the disjointed story creates disorienting dread. An enigmatic finale undercuts the emotional punch almost to ruin. 




Border glumly grapples with issues of beauty, identity, compliance, stranger danger & family secrets. The cast is stellar & a mid-point pivot steeped in folklore loses its grip, growing more hypnotic, bizarre & dangerously unpredictable, choking your heart & throat. 




Searching while rooted in a gimmick ends up being deeply absorbing & relentless due completely to John Cho's frenetic energy & commitment. It's impossible to tear your eyes away from the screens as he hunts for his missing daughter with a Machiavellian, emotional finale. 




Now Apocalypse is an angsty 20something L.A. trip full of sex positivity, inclusion, & a plot unmoored from any real story or characters. Throw in rape-y aliens, colorful splashes that portend nothing, & you have a sweet, vapid, cocktail full of itself and empty calories.

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Art of Picking Horror Movies & Avoiding Spoilers



I did it! I managed to not have Us or Pet Semetary spoiled for me in any way. I made a decision several years ago to completely give up trailers, reviews, and social media ahead of a film's release. But how do I figure out which movies to watch and which ones to avoid? Here’s my plan:

1. Watch Trailers the Right Way
Avoiding trailers is both obvious and impossible to do. They are an undeniable elixir. Marketers don’t care what is spoiled in hopes of hooking mainstream audiences who need to see an entire movie in 2 minutes before they plunk down $14 to sit through 2 hours. All the money shots (jump scares, effects, and big reveals) are featured. I'll watch teaser trailers that are usually compiled from early shots before major effects are completed. You can typically also watch the first 30-45 seconds of the very first trailer (there's usually 2-3 trailers of increasing spoilage) to get a taste without major reveals. Avoid all TV trailers. They are condensed and composed of only money shots. And be committed regardless of social norms. I'm the dork who closes his eyes, covers his ears & hums, or mutes the TV and runs to the other room. 

2. Know Your Filmmakers
Dedicated horror fans recognize notable directors, writers, and studios. In the 80s John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg and New Line ruled the box office. Now it's James Wan, Del Toro, Jordan Peele, Blumhouse that seem to be unstoppable. Knowing who made the film is sometimes indicative of the production, style and themes you’ll be getting. Like a movie? Find out who wrote and directed it and follow them. I’m looking forward to new work from Ari Aster (Hereditary), Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Robert Eggers (The Witch), and Justin Benson/Aaron Moorhead (The Endless).

3. Identify Source Material
Many horror movies start their lives as books, and half of those are written by Stephen King. Unfortunately most books don’t survive the transition to the screen. I look for original stories, indie filmmakers, or films that started as short films. There’s an undeniable passion and originality that these filmmakers bring to the screen. The stories they cook up, coupled with the eagerness to tell their stories can overcome the mundane tropes and endless jump scares. 

4. Study Horror Films
Without seeing trailers, it’s important to study and read about films. There are so many awesome sites like Bloody Disgusting and Dread Central that cover every aspect of horror films. Did actors love the experience? Did directors feel supported or thwarted by the studio? Was there extensive reshoots? Reading articles about a troubled productions usually leads to troubled films (ahem, The Mummy and World War Z). And pay attention to film festivals (Fantastic Fest, SXSW, Stiges, Screamfest, Telluride, Toronto After Dark, etc.) where up-and-coming directors debut headier or experimental films without distribution deals. There's some serious gems in those festivals.

5. Follow Real Horror Fans
Rotten Tomatoes is a fun guide, but for my money, I want to hear from the real horror fans not esteemed critics. These are the bloggers, podcasters, and Twitter folks who devote serious energy towards their passion for horror films, and usually don't get paid to do so. Examine which films they like or dislike, and follow the ones that correspond to your tastes. Develop a dialogue with the authors, comment on posts, debate salient points, get to know them, and they will never steer you wrong. But beware. It's impossible to talk about films effectively without spoilers so read the articles and reviews after seeing the film.




Friday, March 22, 2019

US is Tense, Baffling Fun

Jordan Peele’s sophomore movie Us is well crafted American horror mixing home invasion, apocalypse, and sci-fi conspiracy themes. Prolonged stretches of sinister tension, relatable humor, and harrowing performances mostly sell this baffling, layered love letter to horror fans.

Don’t expect Get Out’s succinct storytelling, political leanings, or intimate setting. The breakneck speed of the plot doesn’t let you contemplate the meanings of seemingly trivial clues Peele tucks into the film. These clues along with encyclopedic knowledge of faith, science, history, and lore may be needed to fully decipher the film (at a later time). Plus, there is an ambitious narrative in the undertow occurring mostly offscreen and on a grand scale. None of the loftier aspirations ruin the fun of the initial screening. As with most dense films, repeated viewings (and DVD commentaries) may further confirm theories and speculations.

It is a notable accomplishment that Peele has brought back a sense of intelligent wonder to the mainstream, wide-release horror film. This is provocative filmmaking and has solidified Peele as a preeminent horror director. Us is terrifying, brazenly unique in the horror landscape, and well worth time for horror fans.